In the previous edition of The Ewe Turn I began recounting my trip to Denmark, which covered the last week of August and the first week of September. I finished the first chapter with my stay near Silkeborg. This time I hope to complete the tale. Sadly I did have to leave very good friends and equally good “family”. As I left Hinge on the morning of August 30th it was dark and cloudy. Before I could drive past Silkeborg the heavens opened up. For the next couple of hours I drove through a deluge over the entire route south to Ribe, the home of Jens, one of my other Danish “brothers”. We had discussed ahead of time that we would plan our activities together once I arrived. As the downpour continued throughout the afternoon, we decided to just sit tight, have pleasant conversation and await the arrival home of Jen’s partner, Kirsten. Together we had a lovely dinner, which Jens prepared, followed by further conversation. The previous day and today had more than its share of talk, all på dansk. I finally felt by late evening that my brain was over-taxed with conversational Danish. This phenomenon occurs every time I return to Denmark; it takes a while for the language to “kick in” with my brain and begin to feel comfortable. I was not quite there yet by this evening! Within a couple more days I realized that I was again thinking in Danish. That is always a very gratifying emotion!
At least the next day, the language felt better and the weather started to clear. Jens and I spent the morning walking the streets of Ribe (one of Denmark’s oldest towns). Eventually, we spent a couple of hours at the Ribe Viking Museum, viewing an exhibit from Ribe’s sister city in China, which contained artifacts from 200 AD to 1200 AD. All of a sudden old Viking culture did not seem so old!
In the afternoon we drove south along the coast of the North Sea or as this section is known, Vadehavet, or the Wadden Sea. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our destination was the Vadehavs Center or Wadden Sea Center. The Center is devoted to the natural history of the area, especially as it relates to the huge migratory bird activity that occurs here. If you are ever in this area it is well worth the visit! Plan on spending lots of time there. The center has been recently expanded and rebuilt. The new structure’s facade is covered in a traditional Danish roofing material: thatch! However the scale of the thatch work is stupendous. In late afternoon Jens and I closed down the Vadehav Center. Before heading home we drove out to the dike which protects the low coastline of Jutland from the sea. The sides of the dike are grazed by sheep. A wonderful scene and perfect pasture for hundreds of sheep. Most of these sheep seem to be predominantly Texel sheep, but I would also guess that there is often a bit of Danish Pelsfår. My final evening with Jens and Kirsten was spent over a wonderful dinner in an old restaurant in downtown Ribe. The inn, Weis Stue, was “only” built in 1600. It was good to again be with close friends and family and sadly such a short visit.
The following day I traveled east, eventually landing on the island of Lolland. My original plan was to “island hop”, taking three different ferries from Jylland to Als, then to Fyn and finally to Lolland. Once I calculated the travel time, I decided to drive a less direct route, which would however take much less time (driving over three bridges and taking only the final ferry to Lolland. I would have much preferred the leisurely travel with the three ferries, but time often disappears when one is on a short visit. At least I was still able to enjoy the sail from Spodsberg on Langeland to Tårs on Lolland. The little harbor in Spodsberg is always a colorful sight when some of the commercial fishing boats are in the harbor.
My goal on Lolland was the large organic farm/estate known as Knuthenlund. My special interest in Knuthenlund is their large flock of dairy sheep. The main genetic element of the flock is the East Friesian Milk Sheep. The flock numbers in the hundreds. The flock is rotationally grazed through a number of large, luscious pastures. They are milked once a day in the afternoon in a superb parlor. Their milk is made into cheese and yogurt on the farm and sold there in their own farm butik. Many of their various varieties of cheeses have won international awards. Sadly, none of them are available in the United States. In addition to their milking flock, the farm is now raising one of the original old Danish breeds of dairy cows, the Danish Reds. Their milk is also made into a variety of cheeses. It is a wonderful sight to see the Danish Reds grazing in pastures immediately adjacent to the sheep. It is especially gratifying to me to see this now rare breed of cow. Fifty years ago I remember them in much larger numbers on the dairy farms of Fyn.
In addition to the milking sheep and cows, Knuthenlund raises the old Danish Landrace Black and White pig, (danske sortbrogede landracegris), a rare breed. The pigs farrow on pasture and graze on the pastures their entire life. Also completing the farm picture is a newer operation in which they are raising and grinding their own wheat and rye. All of the products produced on the farm can be purchased in a delightful store and cafe next to the milking parlor. Also in the store are a variety of other local foods produced by others in Lolland and the surrounding islands. It is truly a shame that Gretchen and I cannot avail ourselves of the good food sold at Knuthenlund. At least while I was there I had as my lunch for the day my own private wheel of sheep brie!I returned to Knuthenlund on the morning of my second day on Lolland. I was lucky enough to be there when they sponsored their annual harvest festival, which featured many of their products and those of their neighboring farmers. Later in the afternoon I headed to the Saksfjed-Hyllekrog Bird Reserve on the extreme south coast of the island. It is a major migration stop for birds heading farther south into Europe. There were lots of trails for hiking along the coast and adjacent marshes. It was obvious that some major migration was already occurring even though it was very early September. Common Cranes and a number of hawk species were very evident heading toward Germany.
After two days on Lolland it was time to head north to my final destination, the city of Roskilde, on the island of Sjælland. This was a return visit to Roskilde, primarily so that I could spend some more time at the Viking Ship Museum. However, to get to Roskilde I took a rather circuitous route. First I headed for Stevns on the east coast of Sjælland, primarily to see the caulk cliffs in the area. They were impressive but not nearly as grand and dramatic as those that I had visited on a couple of previous trips on the island of Møn farther to the south. As should now be apparent, my rental car should have a special sign attached which read something along the lines of “This car stops for all sheep sightings”. On my way toward Gammel Kalvehave I found this lovely, clover rich pasture, full of contented Texel sheep, with a classic Danish church in the background.
A few years ago I visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. At that time I was intrigued by the account of there reconstuction of a Viking longship that had been discovered, sunken in the waters of Roskilde Fjord. The reproduction of the ship, named Havhingsten fra Glendalough (Sea Stallion from Glendalough) was built on the museum grounds using tools and materials as similar as possible to those used by the vikings to build the original ship near Dublin Ireland in 1042 AD. Shortly before my first visit the Sea Stallion was sailed, under its own power (sail and oars) from Roskilde to Dublin and back. The account of the voyage was, for me, enthralling. I wanted to see the Sea Stallion and the other viking ships that the museum had built and are continuing to build. During my first visit I spent the better part of two days at the museum. Here is a view of the Sea Stallion docked at the museum. It is built of oak; is 30 meters long and 3.8 meters wide, displaces 26 tons fully equipped and required a crew of 65 to 70.
Prior to that first visit I did not realize that one could sail out onto Roskilde Fjord in one of the smaller reproductions. During that visit I could not schedule such an adventure. Nevertheless, since then such a sail was placed high on my “bucket list”. I made sure that as soon as the Museum opened on my first morning there that I reserved a place on one of the smaller ships. Sadly the day had dawned dark with heavy clouds, pretty strong winds and some rain. For a time it looked as though we might not go out. Eventually it was decided that we would give it a try. Here is my trusty boat, the Bjørnefjord, at the wharf (later in the day, in calmer weather) after our return.I lack many photos from our voyage, since I only took my i-Phone with me, fearing that my larger camera would get wet. I also correctly figured that I would not be able to use either camera if I was trying to row as part of the crew. Therefore many of the following images were taken from land of a subsequent trip out. The Bjørnefjord is small, as compared to the Sea Stallion. It is 10.2 meters long with a beam of 2.6 meters. It requires a maximum of 12 oars and a maximum crew of 13. Our crew was international: Danish captain and first mate, with the crew French, Mexican, German, English, Norwegian and one American (me). It was interesting how our crew, none of whom had ever rowed a boat together, managed to become pretty well coordinated with our rowing skills. We had to row out of the protection of the harbor into the open Fjord. Once out into open water we pulled in our oars and were able to raise the sail. With the stiff morning breeze it was amazing how the boat accelerated. It was also impressive how smooth and stable we sailed both out and back on the Fjord for at least a half an hour. These are truly magnificent boats, both small and large! Once under sail I could at least get a few pictures. Granted they were not large swells, but we encountered a significant chop out in the open; the boat did not seem to mind at all. So here is the erstwhile Viking, literally under sail on Roskilde Fjord. The “voyage” was all too short, but worth every minute. My respect for the sailing talents of the real Vikings only continues to grow. My day at the Viking Ship Museum continued well after the conclusion of the “voyage”. I finished the day with a lovely meal at a restaurant, Restaurant Snekken, on the wharf adjacent to the Museum. Fittingly, the highlight of the meal were local mussels in a white wine sauce. A nice ending to a special day!
Sadly I had to leave Denmark the next day. As has become my tradition I have lunch in the Copenhagen Airport at Aamann’s (famous for its smørrebrød). This time I had a Sild Smørrebrød: Pickled Herring on rye-bread accompanied by elderflowers, citrus, creme fraiche, pickled onions, apples and buckwheat. It was all washed down with a large glass of Tuborg Classic beer and a large Taffel Akvavit.
Skål Danmark, min gammel ven. Jeg håber at vi ses igen!